Australia backs PNG bid to host APEC Summit

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Tony Abbott has thrown his support behind Papua New Guinea’s bid to host the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) meeting by telling Prime Minister Peter O’Neill that it was a “done deal”.
Mr O’Neill and his Australian counterpart met yesterday morning at the Sofitel Hotel where the newly-elected Australian Prime Minister promised to continue current programs including the asylum seekers policy in PNG.
Mr O’Neill described the meeting as very fruitful and touching on on-going bilateral issues, with Mr Abbott giving his assurance to continue strengthening that relationship.
“We have an on-going dialogue on issues such as the Manus Asylum Seekers Centre and we believe that the two countries continue to build on what we have and how we are going to continue to ensure that this relationship remains relevant,” Mr O’Neill said.
He said Mr Abbott has been very appreciative of Papua New Guinea’s support during Australia’s biggest challenge on how they will deal with the asylum seekers and the devastation caused by the sinking of the boats carrying asylum seekers to Australia. 
“We are grateful that the Australian government has continued its commitment in helping us rebuild some of our key infrastructure in the country. Again we know there is a ministerial forum between our two countries that our foreign Minister will lead to Canberra in December; and of course Tony Abbott will be visiting PNG very soon.
“They have not firmed up a date but it is one of their highest priorities. I also want to say that we are appreciative of the assistance that the Australian government has committed and they have indicated that 50 Australian Federal police will join our own policemen and women on the ground before Christmas and that is very much appreciated. 
“Those police officers will be deployed in Port Moresby and in Lae, and again Mr Abbott has indicated that they are keen to discuss with Premier Campbell in Queensland an additional 150 police personnel from that state. 
“We are now working on the details on the funding of that and their willingness to assist us. All in all, we will have up to 200 policemen and women helping us in the future and I believe this will give us time to rebuild our own police force,” the PNG PM said.
Mr O’Neill said Australia has also committed to the design and construction of the road from Madang to Ramu, the Angau hospital in Lae, the rebuilding of the two universities, UPNG and Unitech and the lower court house in Waigani.
“These are big projects, and of course, it will take some time for us to work on them; but it’s good to see that the new Australian government is not going to change the directions of those policies because we as a government have locked in those projects as our priorities and are working together with them,” he said.
The OK Tedi issue, which was a concern to Australia was not brought up during the two leaders meeting and when asked to comment Mr O’Neill said the matter was only in the mind of one person: Sir Mekere Morauta, who represents BHP and foreign interests in the country.
“The mining lease has expired and we have now taken ownership of the mine. No foreign investor is being affected by this decision.
“Papua New Guineans need financial security and this is an opportunity for us to do so. It’s important for PNG to step up. The rest of the world is looking at us, including the up-coming APEC meet in 2018.”

Pacific Flash/Post Courier
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